Sunday, June 7, 2015

SBS Documentary on Same-Sex Marriage in Korea

The following is my translation of an article from Star News that previews an SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) special documentary about same-sex marriage. The documentary aired on June 7th, 2015. I'm doing this for two reasons: 1) to practice my Korean reading proficiency and 2) to stay on top of LGBTQ news in Korea. Parts in brackets are my thoughts and/or additions, and any mistakes are my own.

"SBS Covers Same-Sex Marriage in an SBS Special"
Star News -- Kim Sujin

To be aired on June 7th at 11:10pm, the SBS Special "We Got Married" episode (directed by Lee Kwang-hoon) will look at the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage in Korean society and consider whether Korean society, following various other countries' leads, might find some value in reconsidering its orientation [so to speak].

Currently 17 countries worldwide, 28 states of the USA, part of Mexico, and more have legalized same-sex marriage.
Around the globe, there has been a transition to recognizing legalization of same-sex marriage as a human rights issue. Even [some] conservative American church leaders have established a policy that does not prevent religiously affiliated pastors and clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings, changing the definition of marriage from 'the union of a man and a woman' who love one another to 'the union of two people', a neutral expression that makes no distinction for gender.

However, in South Korea, where prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals is severe, the dispute over the legalization of same-sex marriage has not even begun. The institution of marriage allows for social status and legal benefits, so homosexual couples find themselves unable to obtain rights and legal protections that heterosexual couples have been granted. Will same-sex marriage be approved? Will the changes this will bring be, as its opponents say, strong enough to destroy the basic foundation of society?

The question of the legalization of same-sex marriage, aside from the problem of sex, is a question of whether our society will be one that approves of diversity, bans discrimination and accepts universal values. Whether or not there is an answer to this more fundamental question is now coming to the forefront.

A couple that is not a couple
A couple consisting of two male office employees in their thirties made use of their summer vacation in 2013 to hold a small wedding ceremony. Although they had been living together for a few years, it was a day to officially acknowledge their status as a couple to family and friends. Although they live like a traditional couple, in public, they still are just unmarried bachelors in their thirties. They don't enjoy the rights and privileges of being a couple. When one of them falls suddenly ill at night and needs to be sent to the emergency room, because the other is not legally considered family, he cannot sign the hospital admittance consent form and, in the end, the parents who are in the area must be picked up and brought to the hospital. They have raised a family and make a living as a loving couple. But because they are of the same gender, the reality is that they are not legally acknowledged.

Birth of a new family
Although same-sex couples in South Korea live without revealing themselves, the world is changing. On May 15th, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg married his same-sex partner, and in the conservative Catholic country of Ireland, following a popular vote, an overwhelming 62% supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. The winds of change have begun to blow in Japan, as well. Two female celebrities had a public wedding ceremony, encouraging public debate regarding same-sex marriage, and an ordinance acknowledging the fundamental rights of same-sex married people in Tokyo's Shibuya District was enacted.

In the US, debate and research regarding the children raised by same-sex married couples is ongoing. Children of lesbians have been observed from birth to adulthood, and research results from interviews shows that no particular differences can be found between these children and those raised by heterosexual couples. It seems to be not a question of the parents' gender but of their attitude toward parenting that plays a more crucial role.

Jay, a police officer from San Francisco, has raised a family with his same-sex partner. They adopted their two children. One of them has a physical deformity on one side due to the birth mother's drug addiction. When nobody else wanted to adopt the child, this same-sex couple became the child's family. Jay's partner Brian quit his job to focus on raising the child, who is now in high school. Despite the doctor originally warning that the child would not live past a few years, now Jay and Brian have raised a straight-A, honor roll student who wants to become a physical therapist for other people with disabilities.

From the confident lives that the 4 members of Jay's family lead, comes the question we must ask ourselves: if this is not a family, then what is? In this SBS Special, which will look at love as it concerns sexual minorities [LGBTQ people], we will think seriously about in which direction our society must progress.

Original article in Korean here.

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